Chicago Sensor Expo & Conference Recap

by Ray Hicks, President,

Irene and I had the opportunity to walk the Sensors Expo and Conference June 24 in Chicago. We were on our way to Shanghai via Chicago O’Hare to visit vendors, so we left a day early to stop by the Expo first. They show sensors. We sell sensor. Perfect.

The Sensor Expo is not a big show, but it appeared well attended by local traffic. You could walk it in a few hours.

In case you haven’t heard of it, their brochure states “Sensors Expo & Conference is the only industry event in North America exclusively focused on sensors and sensor-integrated systems, providing nearly 30 years of technical innovation and thought leadership! (sic)” I don’t know if this is true or not, but I’m always leery of copy with exclamation points (!) in it. If I ever send out a newsletter with one, shoot me.

However, they weren’t kidding about focusing on sensors. I saw hundreds of sensors to measure magnetic flux, velocity, radiation, pressure, temperature, humidity, chemicals, gases, and anything else you can imagine. The only common theme was, “smaller is better.”

For example, the proliferation of MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical) devices marches on. Beyond the initial “gee-whiz” factor, it was fascinating to see how MEMS sensors are being used for the analysis of concentrations of oxygen, CO2 and even trace elements in blood. Over time, I can see this “sensor on a chip” technology replacing many of the mechanical sensors used today.

I also learned at the show that “The internet of Things” is the new buzz word for all things sensor plus radio of any nature. And there where lots of radios. SDR Software-defined radio is become pervasive. To power these devices, there were energy harvesters, solar cell tech, and printed batteries to generate and store energy.

For example, wearable sensors were woven into fabric to measure temperature, pressure and for use as antennas. Lots of fitness applications and products are pushing this use. The Swatch Watch electronic division was promoting their flexible LCD/OLED tech. The next generation of Personal Trainer watches will do more than measure your heart rate or activity level. The are on to measuring salinity, glucose, ad blood oxygen

Another technology that caught my eye was the new multispectral sensors by PixelTeq. They pack nine photodiodes with filters onto an array measuring less than 1x1cm, enabling simpler and smaller OEM cameras that can measure spectral bands in UV, visible, and near infrared light for a variety of applications.

Overall a predictable show reflecting the changes we read every day in the tech news. The show will be in Long Beach, CA in 2015, so hopefully there will be even more vendors and new faces.

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